Nine ‘errors’?

October 11, 2007 at 3:40 am | Posted in AIT, Broadly accurate, Climate change, Education, Legal, Media | 5 Comments

Can you find a school text book nowadays with zero errors in it?
Have you ever watched a movie with all factual material absolutely correct?

😐

Me neither. Anyway, there’s a wonderful set of classic post-High Court case headlines today relating to AIT.

Times Online writes:

Al Gore told there are nine inconvienient truths in his film

Nice spelling😉

Power Line Forum cheers:

A Brit truck driver (Stewart Dimmock) took Al Gore on. And he WON!

Er, only thing is, he didn’t. Dimmock’s case was intended to stop AIT being distributed to and shown in schools. Did it achieve its goal? Well, here are a couple of leading paragraphs from leading British papers:

Climate change film to stay in the classroom

A parent has failed in his legal action to prevent Al Gore’s climate change documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, being shown in schools in England.

by Donald MacLeod and agencies in yesterday’s EducationGuardian.

Inconvenient verdict delivered on Gore’s climate change film

Yesterday, the judge found that the “broadly accurate” film can indeed be screened – as long as it is accompanied by material from the climate change-denial fraternity. But, in a somewhat more damaging move, the judge forensically examined the documentary’s “one-sided” case and found “nine scientific errors” in its content.

per James Macintyre in today’s The Independent UK Legal News.

Worth reading. Macintyre’s professional report is certainly far more accurate, fair and balanced than many blogs which also get basic facts wrong themselves, for example:

Flopping Aces headlines it:

British Court Decides “An Inconvenient Truth” Is Full Of Inaccuracies

and also presents, here I am juxtaposing:

Facts behind “The Great Global Warming Swindle.”

Since when did “broadly accurate” in a High Court’s judge’s words translate to “Full Of Inaccuracies“? Ahem.

NewsBusters uses this title:

Court Identifies Eleven Inaccuracies in Al Gore’s ‘An Inconvenient Truth’

Constitutionally Right states:

Eleven Inconvenient Truths For Al Gore

So nine equals eleven. Right is wrong. Actually, eleven was the starter for ten, and it was reduced to nine, as Mr. Dimmock explains on his own party political website (talk about the pot calling the kettle …) here:

newpartyDOTcoDOTuk/articles/inaccuracies-gore.html
Inaccuracies in Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth

This article was first produced following an interim judgement of the High Court, since which time the full judgement has been given. In his full judgement the Judge listed nine inaccuracies rather than the 11 from the interim judgement – two appear to have been grouped together and another omitted. In the interests of clarity we have accordingly revised the details below.

The decision by the government to distribute Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth has been the subject of a legal action by New Party member Stewart Dimmock. The Court found that the film was misleading in nine respects and that the Guidance Notes drafted by the Education Secretary’s advisors served only to exacerbate the political propaganda in the film.

In order for the film to be shown, the Government must first amend their Guidance Notes to Teachers to make clear that 1.) The Film is a political work and promotes only one side of the argument. 2.) If teachers present the Film without making this plain they may be in breach of section 406 of the Education Act 1996 and guilty of political indoctrination. 3.) Nine inaccuracies have to be specifically drawn to the attention of school children.

The inaccuracies are:

  • The film claims that melting snows on Mount Kilimanjaro evidence global warming. The Government’s expert was forced to concede that this is not correct.
  • The film suggests that evidence from ice cores proves that rising CO2 causes temperature increases over 650,000 years. The Court found that the film was misleading: over that period the rises in CO2 lagged behind the temperature rises by 800-2000 years.
  • The film uses emotive images of Hurricane Katrina and suggests that this has been caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that it was “not possible” to attribute one-off events to global warming.
  • The film shows the drying up of Lake Chad and claims that this was caused by global warming. The Government’s expert had to accept that this was not the case.
  • The film claims that a study showed that polar bears had drowned due to disappearing arctic ice. It turned out that Mr Gore had misread the study: in fact four polar bears drowned and this was because of a particularly violent storm.
  • The film threatens that global warming could stop the Gulf Stream throwing Europe into an ice age: the Claimant’s evidence was that this was a scientific impossibility.
  • The film blames global warming for species losses including coral reef bleaching. The Government could not find any evidence to support this claim.
  • The film suggests that sea levels could rise by 7m causing the displacement of millions of people. In fact the evidence is that sea levels are expected to rise by about 40cm over the next hundred years and that there is no such threat of massive migration.
  • The film claims that rising sea levels has caused the evacuation of certain Pacific islands to New Zealand. The Government are unable to substantiate this and the Court observed that this appears to be a false claim.

The BBC has updated its report and has this to say on the topic, with my emphasis:

The nine errors alleged by the judge included:

  • Mr Gore’s assertion that a sea-level rise of up to 20 feet would be caused by melting of ice in either West Antarctica or Greenland “in the near future”. The judge said this was “distinctly alarmist” and it was common ground that if Greenland’s ice melted it would release this amount of water – “but only after, and over, millennia”.
  • Mr Gore’s assertion that the disappearance of snow on Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa was expressly attributable to global warming – the court heard the scientific consensus was that it cannot be established the snow recession is mainly attributable to human-induced climate change.
  • Mr Gore’s reference to a new scientific study showing that, for the first time, polar bears had actually drowned “swimming long distances – up to 60 miles – to find the ice”. The judge said: “The only scientific study that either side before me can find is one which indicates that four polar bears have recently been found drowned because of a storm.”

Who am I to judge a judge’s judgment? Though I must admit, some of his quotes don’t fill me with confidence in his expertise on climate science, such as the timing of sea level rises due to Greenland melting and releasing 20 feet of water “but only after, and over, millennia”. How does the judge know this release of water will definitely take thousands of years?* The sooner the melt, the sooner the rise, and all the melts I have heard recently are happening faster (much faster) than scientists predicted.

* Update 1: OK. Now I understand where the judge gets his several millennia quote from:

IPCC AR4 WG1 Chapter 10

Climate Change Commitment (Temperature and Sea Level)

The Greenland Ice Sheet is projected to contribute to sea level after 2100, initially at a rate of 0.03 to 0.21 m per century for stabilisation in 2100 at A1B concentrations. The contribution would be greater if dynamical processes omitted from current models increased the rate of ice flow, as has been observed in recent years. Except for remnant glaciers in the mountains, the Greenland Ice Sheet would largely be eliminated, raising sea level by about 7 m, if a sufficiently warm climate were maintained for millennia; it would happen more rapidly if ice flow accelerated. Models suggest that the global warming required lies in the range 1.9°C to 4.6°C relative to the preindustrial temperature. Even if temperatures were to decrease later, it is possible that the reduction of the ice sheet to a much smaller extent would be irreversible.

5 Comments »

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  1. Rather helpfully, Chris McGrath over on RealClimate posted a link to the original judgement:

    http://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/Admin/2007/2288.html

    This is the link to his original comment:
    http://www.realclimate.org/index.php/archives/2007/10/oregon-institute-of-science-and-malarkey/#comment-58895

  2. Thank you very much for those two links, Ian. I have read through both as well as Stoat’s post on The boring truth, and may write more about this on the weekend. Actually, I am going to watch AIT (again) at my daughter’s school Friday evening, so all background to the case is useful. I hope to get a sense of what other parents think about the latest AIT kerfuffle, if they are aware of it at all. Ironically, most adults tune out all but the most alarming messages—which is why AIT worked to raise awareness in the first place!

  3. I have to admit I’ve never seen AIT – although the company I work for has put on multiple screenings.

    I think the judge did a pretty good job, but the reporting is/was atrocious, and the political link (which is entirely predictable) hasn’t really been reported.

  4. Hello Ian,

    AIT is worth watching if you get the chance. I just came home from the screening and ensuing discussion with students and teachers at school. I made a point of listening very carefully to the passages where the judge was told by Dimmock’s Counsel there were errors. There were no factual errors I could detect, though I will admit someone not paying attention could make assumptions if not listening pedantically. I was relieved and annoyed at the same time! Basically, Dimmock’s legal advisor framed the argument, prepared notes for the judge and the latter assessed the validity of scenes against the claimant’s predetermined suggestions. Did you see my latest post to Stoat?

  5. Hi Inel,
    yes, I’m a keen reader of Stoat. It does hamper a discussion when one fails to view the material in question. I have to admit I haven’t seen TGGWS either, but in that case on the grounds that it might induce apoplexy!

    If you go to points 17 and 23 in the judgement you can see that the judge takes the IPCC and Stott as the scientific authority, which is good. He also writes: “Mr Downes produced a long schedule of such alleged errors or exaggerations and waxed lyrical in that regard.” – you get the impression that there must have been at least 18 points made by Dimmock et al and so at least half of them were chucked out.

    I guess my take on the specific points is:
    1. Rapid icesheet melting – certainly Hansen has raised this in the peer reviewed literature as a possbility, and the IPCC estimates are looking conservative in this regard.
    2. Evacuating islands – certainly no evidence of a direct evacuation but it looks like Tuvalu has put in place something to cover the possibility and the Maldives are trusting the rest of us to act before it’s too late. And with Max elevations of <6feet above current sea level I wouldn’t be banking on staying more than a couple more generations.
    3. Shutting down the ‘ocean conveyor’, definitely discussed as a possibility in the IPCC.
    4. CO2 / temperature coincidence – this seems to be a point where some climate scientists are happy with the presentation and some are uncomfortable.
    5. Snows of Kilamanjaro – IPCC asserts that glacier wastage is due to global warming in the second half of the 20th century but doesn’t mention Kilamanjaro explicitly.
    6. Lake Chad – not at all familiar with this bit of the IPCC reports.
    7. Hurricane Katrina – certainly highly arguable that we’re seeing the first signs of global warming induced intensification of Atlantic hurricanes (I’ve just finished reading Storm World, excellent and recommended reading I think he’s identified how science works really rather astutely.)
    8. Polar bears – I guess if the ice hadn’t melted the polar bears wouldn’t have been swimming in a storm! I know Stoat has it in for the polar bears though😉
    9. Coral bleaching – bit odd this one – Gore seems to be making a very general point about extinctions (which are no doubt caused by a wide range of factors), but coral bleaching looks to be very directly sea water temperature induced and sea temperatures are expected to rise therefore… Bleaching does seem to be a temporary condition for the moment though.

    I seem to be saying these are all arguable points, rather than outright ‘errors’ and in the case of Katrina, Chad and Kilamanjaro Gore has been tripped up by the explicit attribution problem where the IPCC has always spoken in terms of statistical attribution.

    It would be interesting to apply the same process to TGGWS – I don’t think even the title would have made it past the judge!


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